Living on the Edge (Part 2 A journal of a mule ride down the Grand Canyon


Joan and I the night before the mule ride still in our tourist clothes.

The Santa Fe Trail to the Grand Canyon

By Sherry Jarvis

Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When we started driving Joan asked, “I wonder if we will still be friends after being together 24/7 for the next week. I reassured her that nothing was going to ruin this trip or our friendship. As we drove 700 miles the first day, I think we told each other our whole life histories. If we didn’t know each other’s deep secrets before, we do now.

We stopped in Limon, CO to fuel up and make some peanut butter sandwiches. We were swarmed with flies.  My car was immediately filled with hundreds of flies. Peanut butter with choke cherry jelly must be a delicacy in CO. So as we left Limon we drove clear to Rocky Ford with the windows down trying to chase flies out of the car.  We finally gave up and bought some insect spray at La Juanta.  We had a good laugh about the flies. We never  had that problem again while fixing sandwiches out of the back of the car.


Montezuma Castle near Las Vegas,NM, now a college

We stayed in Las Vegas, NM the first night. Then we played tourist the second day, visiting the Montezuma Castle near Las Vegas,NM; Old Town Santa Fe where we shopped until we nearly dropped; the Loretto Chapel with the spiral staircase; and we rode the Sandia Peak Sky Tram near Albuquerque.


Joan ordering our lunch at Burro Cafe in Santa Fe.

We ended up driving through Albuquerque in 5:00 rush hour traffic. Being a country girl all of my life, I am not the greatest city driver, oh heck lets tell the truth, it scares the pants off me. In fact I was petrified. This was definitely the scariest part of the whole trip. The mules, cliffs, and suspension bridge were a piece of cake, because I trusted my mule Maude 100%. However, I did not trust the crazy drivers all around me, causing me to freak out. My knuckles were white from squeezing the steering wheel. Joan kept telling me to calm down. It didn’t work. I was like a wild-eyed horse in survival mode.

We got a little turned around, not lost mind you. I knew we had to head west. That is what I hate about city driving, you know you have to go west, but you can’t get there from here. So we stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. I was a little right-brained at this point. When I told the cashier who was trying to explain to us how to get back on the interstate about my west theory; “just follow the sun.” She said, “Aren’t you Mrs. Crocodile Dundee . Then she asked us if we were on a road trip. When we told her where we were going, she asked us if we were Thelma and Louise. We had a good laugh which calmed me down and it wasn’t too difficult to find our way out of Albuquerque because she gave us good directions.


Loretto Chapel with miraculous spiral staircase in Old Town Santa Fe, NM

It was late by the time we found a motel in Gallup, NM. I won’t bore you with all the details of our tourist stories because I am sure you are anxious to hear about the actual mule ride. When we called my husband at 10:00 pm and told him we were in Gallup he said, “Is that all the further you got today?”. I thought we did pretty good going 275 miles considering how many times we stopped. We had about the same distance to travel the next day to get to Grand Canyon Village, AZ. So we spent plenty of time stopping at all the native America road side shops along the way. However when we left Gallup that morning my check engine light came on in my car not far down the road. My cruise control also quit working. So we made an illegal turn on the interstate and headed back to Gallup, where we found a service station with a really nice man who fixed the car for only $25. We gave him a nice tip and got back on the road again, praising God all the way. My car ran fine the rest of the trip.


Sky Tram we rode at Sandia Peak, near Albuquerque, NM

As we arrived in Flagstaff it was raining and the sky was looking pretty dark and dreary toward the Grand Canyon with lightning flashes in the sky. Joan was so worried that the ride would get canceled because of washed out trails after we drove all that way. But I kept reminding her we have a divine appointment. In fact when we rode back up Kaibob trail on Sunday morning, the mule ride down Bright Angel trail was canceled because or washed out trails. God timed our trip with ultimate perfection. It wasn’t too hot with the cloud cover and it rained just enough to settle the dust on the trails.


One of the many Native American shops we stopped at. I bought Christmas presents for my family here.


Another cool Native America road side shop

As we entered the park on Friday afternoon our anxiety heightened when we asked the ticket agent at the gate if the mule rides were still on for tomorrow she said something like “I hope not!”  I about flipped when she said that. But I remained calm and positive telling her that was the only reason we came to the park. She said there are a lot of better things to do. She obviously did not know who she was talking to. She was talking to two die-hard cowgirls who were determined to ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, rain or shine. I guess she isn’t a mule lover or rider like we are. She said she would never ride a mule. Poor woman, she doesn’t know what she is missing. I think there are two kinds of people those who love to ride and those who don’t.

As we were driving through the park trying to find Bright Angel Lodge we had to stop to ask for directions because the lady at the gate who didn’t like mules gave us terrible directions and for some reason my great navigator Joan couldn’t figure out the map the woman gave us. It was terrible. But the cool thing is we saw a great big bull elk while trying to find our way. Joan had really wanted to see one. But because of traffic behind us, we didn’t get a picture of him.


Joan talking with Henry at our Bright Angel Cabin


Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon Village, AZ

When we finally got to Bright Angle Lodge we found a good parking place that we later discovered was right close to our cabin. It could not have been more convenient. I had been to the Grand Canyon back in 1981, I can tell you it was a lot quieter then.  Today there are big tour buses everywhere and boy did the exhaust systems stink up the place. I am sure there were more people around that did not speak English fluently than those who did. It was very crowded. I am not into crowds, which is why this is my first vacation in 18 years. And in fact only the third real vacation in my life. My last one was moose hunting and salmon fishing in Alaska on the Kenai peninsula. I was there the whole month of October, not exactly tourist season so there were no crowds. It was perfect.

We went straight to the desk to check in and then to the travel center where we got our orientation for the mule ride. We had the two men behind the desk in stitches. We were so excited we couldn’t quit making wise cracks. They gave us our canteens and yellow rain slickers that said “Mule rider”.  They gave us a clear plastic bag about 12×18 inches that did not stretch at all. We were instructed to put everything we wanted to take with us on the trip in that bag. We had to do a little paring down that night as we packed for the overnight trip. After they weighed us to make sure we were under 200 lbs we signed our liability waivers. Now we were official. It was getting close and the suspense was building. I wanted to go find the mules, but Joan thought it would be good to get our bags to our room. So we did.


Buckey O’Neil’s Cabin where we stayed on the South Rim

We stayed in Buckey O’Neil’s Cabin, Grand Canyons oldest surviving historic structure built-in the early 1890’s. It was the cutest room we had the whole trip. We loved it. After putting our luggage in our room we packed our clear plastic bags for the trip. There was a lot of discussion that went something like this: Do you think we will need a jacket? What about our swim suits or a pair of sandals so we don’t have to wear our boots with a swim suit? I decided on a light denim jacket and to wear my boots with my swim suit. Another peanut butter and choke cherry jelly sandwich and we left our room to walk around looking at the canyon and soveinere shops. Joan bought a really cool book called “The Grandest Ride”. We both bought mule T-shirts. I also got mule socks and a mule ball cap. That was the extent of our purchases we were just there for the mule ride.

As we were looking over the edge of the canyon we were trying to figure out which trail we would be riding. We found where the mule ride begins, but no mules. I hiked down the trail we would be riding in the morning. When I got back I told Joan, “Piece of cake, it isn’t that steep, it is like a highway.” She said I’ll reserve my opinion on that until I am actually riding on it.


We guess that was the trail we would be riding down, we were right.

After taking some pictures and calling our husbands and my parents we went back to the room as it was getting dark. We each enjoyed a nice hot bath in our neat old cast iron claw foot deep bathtub. I soaked until I was a prune. How were we going to sleep? We were so excited. We knew we needed to get some shut-eye because had to get up early. We were to meet for the  ride at 6:30 am. The Grandest ride of all. Joan was worried that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations, but it was way more than we could have ever imagined. 

The ability to face the future with confidence. For believers this is possible because of their knowledge of God.

To be continued…….


Living on the Edge (Part 1: A Journal of a mule ride down the Grand Canyon)

By Sherry Jarvis

Two Paths Cross on the Trail of Life


First part of a journal of our trip to ride  mules down the Grand Canyon 9/7-8/2013

Our journey started long before we put our foot in the stirrup of the mules we would ride on Bright Angle Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Both of us have been riding since we were very young girls. Neither one of us can remember a time when we didn’t love horses. We were born cowgirls. Our paths have been quite different, but then again similar in many ways. One thing is for sure, we both live to ride and we love sharing our passion with others. We will keep on doing this until the day we die in whatever way the good Lord guides us.

I grew up in Burwell, NE.  About the time I went off to college in Chadron, NE Joan moved from Omaha to Burwell just down the road from my parents with her husband Henry and two children Wes and Wendy. My younger brother was in the same grade as Wes. So Joan and I never really knew each other personally for quite a few years. But I knew all about Joan through my Dad. He coached Wendy in track, and he bred his good roping mare, Sooner, to Joan’s paint stallion. He told me what a good horsewoman Joan was and how nice her stallion was. In fact he gave me two of the horses he raised out of her stallion; Sunshine and Dolly. I still have them and love them both. Mom and Dad also told me how Joan would ride her horse to Burwell to get groceries. I thought she must be a real character. I remember seeing Joan ride in the local rodeo parade in all her glitz and glamor thinking how beautiful she was. So we had a connection years and years before we ever became best friends. Joan is the kind of person when you see her you think, ”Now that is an interesting person; I would like to get to know her.”

After graduating from college I moved to MT, then to TX, NV, and WY. I grew up in the sandhills where rocks were few and far in between. I loved collecting them and always wanted to live in the mountains where I could look at them every day. After 20+ years of doing a lot of exploring in the back country of the mountains, I felt it was time to head back to my roots in the beloved Sandhills of NE, rocks or no rocks. Once the Sandhills are in your blood it is hard to get them out.

As fate would have it I bought a place only a couple of miles from Joan. We didn’t get together right away. After quitting my teaching job I was too busy starting my horsemanship business “Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship”. I was on the road a lot those first few years, so sadly I didn’t have time for people in my own community. But thankfully now I have clients coming to me so I stay home more than I travel and I have a lot more friends close to home, which is nice.

Once in a while Joan rode her horse or her bike on the road by my arena, and we would visit. One day we just started trail riding together. She didn’t have anybody to ride with on a regular basis and other than clients when they came to visit, neither did I. So we just hit it off and I can’t tell you how much fun I have had riding with Joan. My Mom told me that Joan said, “I’ve waited over 15 years for a fun riding partner.” So we are very blessed to have each other.

I really love the way Joan tells it like it is. She may not be the most patient person in the world but she knows how to get a job done, which is why she is such a good hand at the cattle sale barn where she works. She is very flamboyant with her loud voice, pretty curled blonde hair, fancy clothes and blingy yet tasteful accessories. She is quite the stylish cowgirl, the kind who always has a pressed shirt on and  just enough make up so she looks her best. I on the other hand don’t worry too much about accessories, ironing my shirts or makeup since it usually melts off my face anyway because I sweat so much. I really don’t like heat. So I don’t mind riding in the cold, which is where our mule ride story actually begins.

One winter day Joan and I were riding through our favorite hills to the Calamus Reservoir. Joan doesn’t particularly like riding in the cold like I do, but she doesn’t like sitting around the house in the winter getting depressed so she agreed to a snowy winter ride. She was telling me how her back and legs had been bothering her since the spill she had taken over a jump at the October fox hunt. Joan has hosted a fox hunt in Burwell for the past 20 years. She is a very popular person.

I remember the hill we were on near the gate that goes into Weber’s pasture when we started talking about where we would ride if we could ride anywhere in the world. It was my favorite time of the year, just before Christmas. The snow was twinkling like glitter in the sunshine. The green cedar trees were lightly dusted with a soft blanket of white crystals. You could see the horse’s breathe and hear their hooves swishing in the fluffy snow that was almost like cotton balls and I was so darn content I said, “Right here, I just love the Sandhills, and as long as I am on a horse I don’t really care where I ride. I’ve ridden about everywhere I want to. No sense spending any money to go someplace else.” Being the conservative person I am who thought she had sown all her oats in her younger days and had done all the exploring necessary this made sense. Or so I thought, until Joan my bigger than life friend planted something else in my head when she said, “Before I die I want to ride a mule down the Grand Canyon.” I thought, “Well heck, that sounds pretty cool.” So in my usual way, without thinking, my mouth said, “I think I would like to do that too, if you ever go let me know, maybe I’ll go with you.” All the time thinking, “Ha, Ha, that’s not likely to ever happen.” And that is how our adventure began.

Joan and I don’t only share a love of riding horses we also love God. She comes to a bible study which I facilitate. So we have a common faith which gives us plenty to talk about on our rides. One day Joan and I were riding through the same hills, I think it was about a year after we talked about the mule ride. That is when Joan first told me she had been real tired and was often short of breath. That spring during the 6 weeks of Lent Joan and I did a prayer walk through our town every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. Some mornings it was very cold and I could hear her breathing hard, but she kept going. When our legs and noses were frozen we would head to the Hub (a neat old fashion soda/coffee shop) for hot chocolate.

After we had finished our 6 week prayer walk, praying for everyone in our town except ourselves, Joan went to the doctor and had 2 quarts of fluid drained off her lungs. And mind you she is also still working at the sale barn. Now that is one tough cowgirl. The test came back with the news there were some cancer cells in the fluid. We cried and prayed. It wasn’t long and she had to have her lungs drained again. More tests, more waiting, and a few weeks later the doctors still gave her no diagnosis about what kind of cancer. So near the end of May Joan flew to Salt Lake City UT, where her son Wes lives to see a special cancer doctor. A couple of weeks later she was diagnosed with mesothelioma and the prognosis not good.

When I talked with Joan on the phone I said, “Joan we are going to the Grand Canyon on the mule trip you said you wanted to go on before you die.” She said, “Oh we won’t be able to go, I hear there is a year or two waiting lists.” Being the optimist I am, I said, “I’m going to call anyway, I am sure we will get a reservation”.

It was a divine appointment. This was the first part of July. They had a spot for two people for Labor Day weekend. I called Joan right back. She said, “I don’t know if I can go because the doctor said if the chemo goes well  I may have to have surgery the first part of September”. I suggested that we go on the mule ride Labor Day and I would drive her to Salt Lake for the surgery right after the ride. She said she would have to think about it for a couple of days. Can’t hardly blame her, it is her life that is at stake. When she called back and said, “Let’s go, what’s a few days to delay a surgery when you might only have another year to live.” I called Xanterra right back and the Labor Day spots were sold out, but thankfully they had two spots open for Sept. 7-8. I didn’t call Joan back to see if those dates were ok with her. I got my credit card out and paid for it on the spot. There was no going back now. We were on our way for the adventure of a lifetime and a dream come true for two country hick sandhills cowgirls. I thought I was going for Joan, but it turned out I got my socks blessed right off my feet!

When I told my parents we were going they were so excited. Eighteen years earlier they had ridden the mules down the Grand Canyon with my two aunts and three cousins. I remember how they all went on and on about how special it was. They were so proud of their silly certificates, getting them framed and all. I remember thinking, “Oh sure, what’s the big deal, just another trail ride, I’ve done plenty of them in the mountains, you guys are just a bunch of flatlanders.” Which was true, the Sandhills where my parents were born and have always lived are pretty darn flat compared to the Grand Canyon. My parents were adamant. They told me, “Now if something happens to Joan and she can’t go, you better go anyway. You will love it. It is the trip of a lifetime.” I thought, Nah, if Joan can’t go, the ticket agent said I could get my money back as long as I cancelled two days prior to our reservations. I probably won’t go if Joan can’t.”  But now I get it. I understand what the big deal was, why they kept talking on and on about it. I know why they were raving about this experience. I can’t shut up about it either. There is just something very awesome about all of it. The grandeur of it all, there are just no words to describe it. Now I am just as proud of my framed silly mule skinner certificate as they are. And until you do it yourself, you just won’t understand either.

I’ll never forget at bible study on August 28th, when I told the group I would not be leading for the next couple of weeks because Joan and I are going on our mule trip to the Grand Canyon. Joan nearly fell off her chair as she screamed, “It’s here already, next week, really, are you sure?” I laughed so hard, just thinking about how excited she was, and I was getting that way too! So the next week we kept calling each other planning what we were taking, what we were going to wear, and the route we were going to take to get there. We were worse than school girls getting ready for the big prom.

I got new tires on my Subaru Outback. Keith my hubby changed the oil, fluids etc. and checked everything over real well. He is such a protector, always making sure I am safe. He knows I can be a bit of a risk taker, or perhaps in his logical mind, just plain silly or bubble headed. Anyway when he was done with the mechanical part I took over with the aesthetics. I gave it a good wash and vacuum. I had to have a clean car for this very important trip. We bought a few special things for the trip, like straps for our glasses and cameras, little packages of toiletries to put in our mule packs, since we were told we could only take 15 lbs. of stuff on the overnight trip.

Joan came over to my house so we could Google our route because she doesn’t have a computer, or even a cell phone. She is not a high-tech kind of gal. She is a free spirit. I call her wild at heart! I am more of the planning type, so I was looking for motels to stay in so we could make our reservations. But Joan would have none of it. She said, “Let’s just let the wind take us!” So we did. She was the navigator and I was the driver as we followed our hearts to places we could not even imagine.

The day before we left we tried to go shopping for food. We planned to take a cooler to save money instead of eating at restaurants. As we walked the isles or the grocery store, I think we were so excited we couldn’t figure out what to buy, so we left the store with some string cheese and a loaf of bread. Yep, that’s all. We decided we both liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Joan said she had a new jar of peanut butter, and I reminded her of the choke cherry jelly my Mom had made last week from the gallons of choke cherries she and Henry had picked and given to Mom. Joan said it was the best choke cherry jelly in the world. I had a bunch of cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden and some dried fruits and veggies. We packed it in the cooler, thankful we had some of our favorite things to eat along the way. We never got tired of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which we ate every single day for a week. Now don’t think we went hungry because we ate at three different Mexican restaurants. One in Santa Fe, NM another in Holbrook AZ, and the last one on the way home in Edwards, CO.  We also had a couple of free breakfasts at the motels where we stayed.  During our travels we stayed at Las Vegas, NM, Gallup, NM, the Grand Canyon in Bucky’s Cabin (the oldest one there), Phatom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, Mexican Hat UT, and finally at Fort Morgan CO.

The morning we left it was pouring rain at 7:00 am.  While we loaded our things into the car we took a second unnecessary and unwanted shower. But we were so excited it didn’t seem to matter that we were sitting in soaked clothes as we drove out of my drive way for a 3000 mile trip. Our husbands were left at home to fend for themselves and take care of the place while we were off feeling free as eagles, flying to unchartered territory, never to return the same again.   

Stay TUNED! More to come……

Phillipians 4: 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Crossing Gracie Creek

The grass peaking through the frozen blanket of snow

It was a frosty winter morning in the Sand hills of central NE, in maybe 1970 or 71. The crisp air made my nose tingle and the grass bow in reverence to the chill as the still blades bravely peaked through the blanket of snow. As we walked across the frozen earth sparkling with snowflakes winking at us, our laughter rang as a bell of joy in the stillness of the ice-covered prairie.

We were carrying our ice skates, fishing poles, auger, buckets, picnic basket and various other items necessary for the family mini-vacation. We often took them and they were my favorite ones. We called my Dad the recreation director because nearly every weekend he planned something fun and interesting for us to do. Even though he enjoyed them as much as we did I think he arranged them to keep us out of trouble.

As we left the old green Chevy truck behind, I looked back and it seemed to be a watchman, smiling and waiting to take us on our next adventure. That old pick-up took us so many wonderful places, like: rodeos, camping, swimming, fishing, hunting, school, church, even to Mount Rushmore. We must have looked like the Beverly Hill Billie’s with five of us packed into the cab and all our gear piled in the back. Old Green as we referred to her also taught each of us kids how to drive. She pulled our horse trailer safely to I don’t know how many rodeos. Anyway that truck seemed a part of our family. But I have wandered away from my story, so let’s head back to Gracie Creek.

Gracie Creek

As we approached the creek the swampy areas had big solid motionless clumps of dirt and grass that we walked on top of. They reminded me of the goose bumps that were forming on my face from the chilly temperature. They became bridges to keep our feet dry from the pools of slushy water which refused to cooperate with the season.

Our destination was the pond across the creek where our fishing poles would be propped by holes freshly hollowed out by Dad in hopes of catching bluegill for our supper. While the poles rested quietly waiting for their catch, we were anything but quiet. As we skated our shouts of accomplishment, praises, and arguments could be heard for miles, even though there was no one nearby to hear them, except maybe Old Green. Everyone had to show off their abilities to go backwards, spin and jump. We also enjoyed a competitive game of hockey.  Our attempts at being Olympians included bumps and bruises, fights and fun.

There I go; getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the important part. When we arrived at the creek it still contained mud and water up to my Father’s knees.  This is not uncommon during the early winter months as Gracie creek is sustained by underground water springs.  None of us were wearing appropriate boots to cross the creek and it was much too wide to jump. However, my Dad saved the day, as he always did. He carried each one of us across on his back, plus all the gear, so we could have a wonderful day bonding together as a family and making memories for the future.

My Dad, like my Heavenly Father is my HERO. They both carry me across the streams of life anytime I hop on and enjoy the journey with them.

Galloping in the Desert

Win Your Horse’s Heart

Slick and I riding in the desert.

I saddled up my horse in record time, not a great feat as I had done it thousands of times. But with eyes blinded by tears it was a miracle I got everything correctly in place so it would stay on the horse. My bay horse Slick stood calm despite my hysteria as I swung on his back.

I galloped him by the house, out the gate toward the thousands of acres of unfenced BLM land. It was nothing more than dry rocky dirt scattered with sage brush, cactus, and an occasional jack rabbit or antelope. Sure there were dangers like rattle snakes, scorpions and deep hidden gullies one could fall into when riding at top speed especially when one was not watching where they were going. However, I was riding without fear of what the desert could do to me. These hazards did not matter to me because I didn’t think anything could hurt me more than the pain I was feeling as my heart split in two. In fact, I was hoping the high mountain desert of Nevada would swallow me up so I would never have to return to my miserable failure of a life.

The events which led up to this day were wrapped in poor choices and some gullibility.
Divorce, miscarriage, disloyalty, manipulation, deception, mistreatment, cruelty, violence, neglect, slanders, rejection, lack of self-worth, condemnation, and financial struggles had taken their toll on me. The straw which finally broke me was when I was asked to leave the church.

Where would I go now? I was still too full of pride to admit that I had been wrong and go home to my parents who I knew would accept me with open arms. I thought I had made this bed so now I needed to lie in it. I was all alone except for my faithful horse Slick who had been with me through all of it. He was the only constant in my life. I thought I knew God. But did I really? Maybe I knew a lot about him. But did I really know him personally?  Did I really trust him? Apparently not, because the moment I rode out into that desert I lost all hope.

I don’t know how long I rode or where I even went. I just let Slick take me to places unknown. They were dark places.  Sometimes I let Slick walk so he could rest, and sometimes I encouraged him to fly like the wind. And he did! I wanted to keep riding until I was hopelessly lost and no one could find me.  After a while I got off because thankfully I had not lost all of my senses. I did not want to kill my precious horse Slick by injuring him or even running him to death. It had been hours and we didn’t have any water.

I remember letting go of the reins, lying down on the sandy desert floor letting every fiber of my being scream in agony until it became a weak whimper. I don’t know how long I laid there. I just know my horse Slick never left my side.  When I could talk again I asked the Lord to take everything out of me which was not pleasing to him, or just let me die out there in the desert. I surrendered  to the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that I imagine a wild horse must yield in order to be tamed.

By now it was beginning to get dark. I had a choice to make; stay, keep going, or go back. My horse Slick began to nudge me. It was the most spiritual moment I have ever had in my life. I didn’t know the way home, but I knew he did. Would I, should I, could I trust him? I did and Slick my champion took me home. As he walked in the dark I let Slick have a full rein as I rode him. He never missed a step. He took care of me as if he would give his life for me. While I rode him I began to gain strength to face the world I was riding into which had not changed. Only I had changed.

See pictures of Slick in my video “A lifetime of Horsemanship”

Slick and I just a couple of days before he died.
Read about how he died in my book. “Win Your Horse’s Heart”

The Lost is Found

I normally write about what God is teaching me through my horses. However, I am preparing for a Lay Speaking Story Telling Class for this weekend, and I had to write a story to tell. So I thought I would share it on my blog.  As some of you guess this story is about me and it relates to the Lost Sheep Parable that Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15. Enjoy.

She had been gone for quite a few years. She wandered off on her own looking for greener grass, adventures, and excitement.  She searched for love, purpose, and meaning.

And there was talk, lots of it; that went something like this:

“It’s her own fault. She chose to leave.”

“Shouldn’t she suffer the consequences of her bad choices?”

“What does she expect? You reap what you sow.”

“She needs to learn the price of obedience. How else will she learn?”

“She is an embarrassment to us. She reflects poorly our values.”

“Leave her alone. She is not worthy of love.”

That is really exactly what she wanted – to be left alone – to find her own way.

She left a note on the dresser in the bedroom explaining she wasn’t coming back and don’t bother looking for her because there will be no forwarding address.

She always lived in the green valley under the protection of a loving family until a young marriage threw her into a dry desert of despair and confusion. So she ran away, as far and fast as she could.

At first climbing up the steep mountains were exhilarating and it gave her a sense of freedom and confidence in herself. As she explored she saw beauty on the mountain tops which thrilled her.

But there were also dangers along the way which tried to destroy her.

Bears with Anger.

Foxes with Pride.

Sneaky Cougars with selfishness.

Wolves with deception.

Coyotes with cleverness, “leaning on her own understanding.”

It seemed like she escaped from each one of these sinful predators, even though each encounter left her with both visible and invisible battle scars. Finally one day they all surrounded her and she found herself trapped on a steep ragged cliff, clinging desperately to a crumbling ledge, with no place left to go.

While going her own way looking for freedom she found herself cut off, imprisoned and out of options. She watched her wounds bleed as she cried and held on; hoping for a rescue.

As she hung there between life and death she wondered if she had gone too far this time? Was she totally abandoned? Was it over? Just as this thought crossed her mind the rock she gripped between her weakening hands began to collapse.

Suddenly she heard footsteps whispering in the distance, they were moving closer, closer, and then a familiar voice called her name over and over.

She did not know He had been calling for his lost love for a long time. Even though there was no answer He continued to search. Finally, in the darkest hour before dawn, He found his precious lost one at the perfect time.

From the depths of her soul she squeaked out “I’m over here, Lord, HELP, I need you!”

As she saw his face the cliff gave away again and she heard him say, “Don’t worry precious one, nothing can separate you from my love. Not height, nor depth. Not your accomplishments. Not even your failures. I promised never to leave or forsake you. I will pursue you no matter where you go because I love you.”

Using his Shepherd’s hook, He pulled her to safety just as the rock she hung from split. It plunged to the earth below shattering into a broken pieces as it hit.

He saved her from certain death and destruction. And then He took her in his arms. He didn’t scold or punish her. He simply carried her all the way home.

As the morning sunshine poured across the green pasture, the Shepherd arrived home as he carried her over his strong shoulders.

He called to His friends and neighbors “Come celebrate with me! I have found my precious one that was lost!”

That day, even the angels in Heaven rejoiced.  For once she was lost. But now she was found.

Riding the Trails as One

DJ resting at Laddy Lake after about 8 miles of riding the trail as one. LOL! NOT!

Before I start, I apologize to the followers of this blog that it has been so long since I posted. I have been so busy with camps, lessons, clinics, teaching a bible study and an intern. I don’t have so many thing on my calendar in August so I hope to get caught up on some of my computer work.

For those of you who follow me on facebook or on my yahoo group you know that I have been sharing quotes from Tom Dorrance’s book “True Unity”.  Despite the heat I have ridden every day throughout June and July. However in the heat of the afternoon Lindsey (my intern) and I often went to relax on the Calamus Beaches. It somehow seemed cooler at the beach with the breezes blowing off the water towards us as we sat under a shade tree reading either Tom’s book or the Bible.  Of course, every once in a while a refreshing dip in the cool spring waters of the Calamus when we got too hot felt so good. In fact sometimes it even felt quite cold, which was a very welcome feeling.

As I read Tom’s book in combination with the Bible I realized once again there is no magic formula to become one with a horse. Although I am sure the experience of oneness is a reality for the horse and rider to share, most of us only get fleeting moments of it from time to time. This “true unity” between a horse and rider is not something that can be handed to someone. It has to be learned. As Tom says, “It has to come from the inside of a person and the inside of a horse.”

I have been focusing on my relationship with DJ this month. He has been a very challenging horse for me. I have made what I thought was every effort to ride him in harmony without arguments. But the truth is, it has taken longer and much more effort than I ever dreamed possible to ride in agreement with this horse. It has taken humility, patience and endurance. But the good news is I feel like I am finally starting to get with him and he with me. It isn’t perfect by any means, but what harmony and oneness we do have I am eager to guard and keep.

Last fall I was making what I saw as really good progress with DJ, so I went to bragging about how well he was doing. That week he bucked me off. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction,  a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I think the greatest enemy to unity is PRIDE.  Proverbs 13:10 says “Pride only breeds quarrels”.  “The Message” says “Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.”

Ray Hunt said, “When the horse is in trouble and the human doesn’t know how to help him, the human lets his pride get in the way and the first thing you know – it’s a contest. The human makes it a win or lose situation, and if you’re not real careful, the horse comes out the winner. The horse doesn’t know what win or lose is, or what a contest is, until the human shows it to him.”

When I am feeling too proud, in the not so good way. I remind myself of a few facts.

1. I remind myself that My horse is always right and a reflection of me. He didn’t ask to be in my corral.

2. I remind myself of who I am and from where I have come. Even though I have learned a lot, I still don’t know it all and have a long way to go to become the horseman DJ needs me to be on a regular basis.

3. I remind myself that I need to stop making excuses or blaming the horse. I need to  quit working on the horse and start working on me because the horse usually gets the job done in spite of me, not because of me.

I have discovered that unity with my horse DJ only happens when I truly listen to him and put his needs first. Tom says it this way, “The best thing I try to do for myself is to try to listen to the horse. I don’t mean let him take over.  I listen to how he’s operating; what he’s understanding or what he doesn’t understand; what’s bothering him and what isn’t bothering him. I try to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is.” 

As I thought about riding my horse in unity this month I began thinking about living in unity with others in my life-like: my husband, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, clients, business competitors, and of course believers in Christ. This Sunday I will be presenting parts of the message you are reading in a Sermon at two local churches. The liturgy scripture for this week is Ephesians 4: 1-16 where we are encouraged by Paul to run on the road together as one that God has called us to travel. While we are riding this trail together he admonishes us to do it with humility and discipline, not in fits and starts, but steadily pouring ourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick to mend fences.  I encourage you to read if for yourself.

In “The Message”1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul shares his concern with believers, “I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.”

When Saint Augustine was asked to list the principles of the Christian life, he answered, “First, humility. Second, humility. Third, humility.”

Ray Hunt told us letting pride get in the way will cause a contest with the horse where there is usually no winner. If I want to ride the trail as one whether on my horse or traveling on the road of being a christian with other believers, I need to remind myself of some facts similar to the ones I listed above.

1. I remind myself of what Christ did for me: He HUMBLED Himself

Philippians 2:5-8 “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human. Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death, and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.”

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.—Isaac Watts

2.  I remind myself of who I am: A sinner saved by GRACE

3. I remind myself of who others are: People VALUED by God

When I remind myself of  these facts and yield myself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it seems so much easier to lay aside differences with others. It reminds me that I hurt Jesus as well as myself when I criticize or argue. When I rely on the power of His Spirit working through me, I can achieve unity to ride the trails of life whether they are on my horse DJ, within the wall of the church, or outside the walls of the church in all of my relationships.

Today, I pray that we leave a trail of inspiration for others as we ride together as one on this journey of becoming a mature Christian and savvy Horseman. As we make every effort to live in unity with each other may the Spirit of God grant us the humility, love and patience required to live in unity so the power of God will be evident in our lives and through it bring others to Christ and glory to God. AMEN!




Stand in Awe

Have you ever just stood in bewilderment looking at a horse wondering what is going through your mind?

Have you ever watched in admiration as a group of horses galloped together through a field with total abandoned freedom?

Have you ever marveled at the miraculous birth of a new foal; how he stands up on his feet in only a few minutes able to run swiftly by his mother’s side from enemies?

Have you ever been surprised by the fact that a horse who is a natural-born claustrophobic, with a tendency to panic at the slightest thing can also display incredible curiosity and bravery?

Have you ever been astonished at how fast a horse can learn something or how fast he can train you to do things his way?

Have you ever been blown away by watching a truly great horsemen moving as one with his horse?

Have you ever simply been in total awe of the fact that the horse (a prey animal) would so trust any human (a predator)  that he would not only allow the predator on his back obeying the  human’s commands, but would at the same time be willing to develop a bond with him?

I have been working with my paint horse Sunshine over the last couple of weeks. I have been video taping my work with her for the on-line study group. Sunshine came to me with a very extreme ear and head shy issue, plus a lot of other problems. I have been helping her to deal with her fear and high need for self-preservation for several years. It is long and exhausting work which takes a ton of patience and perseverance. She keeps reminding me that to draw near to her and create a deeper bond with her I always need to find joy in who she is, not who I want her to be.

When I went to my first natural horsemanship clinic over 12 years ago I was blown away by the difference between what I saw the clinician and her students doing and what I knew I was doing with my horse. They had something I was missing and I recognized this fact right away.  Oh, I was very successful in the worlds eyes with horses if you looked in my trophy room. But the things these people who called themselves natural horsemen were doing especially on the ground with their horses amazed me. They simply blew my socks off with their imagination and the relationship I saw they had with their horse which I did not yet have.  I grew up the old cowboy way, just get on and ride em’. To tell you the truth it was pretty ugly and we are dang lucky we weren’t killed or injured more often; not to mention the stress we put the horses through with our ignorant handling skills. You just don’t know what you don’t know!

Now that I have been studying and practicing natural type horsemanship for over 12 years the things which once awed me can easily become common place things because they are now so easy for me. We can begin to take things for granted or never be satisfied with where we are or what our horse is offering us. One thing I never want to lose is my awe, wonder and excitement that the horse is doing anything at all with me, let alone something good and pleasing with me.

There are four strategies which I use to keep the awe and wonder of the relationship and performance I have with my horses fresh.


If I compare Sunshine’s ability to accept ropes and other equipment around her head and ears without any reaction to my other horses she may look like a complete and utter failure to those observing. I could easily feel discouraged with her or with my own skills to help her if I only focus on how I wish she was undisturbed like all my other horses. But when I look back over the past 10 years and see where we have come from I could not be  more astonished.

I am excited about the things I have learned about her and myself over the years even if I am still not exactly where I hoped to be at this time. I am in sheer wonder she has allowed me to make so many mistakes with her and yet she keeps improving with me as I improve. I think the best way to lose the awe of the relationship we can have with a horse is to do too much drilling, and never being satisfied with where you and the horse are on the journey. I hope I never lose the wonder of what the horse is offering me and what I have learned in order to allow the horse to cooperate with me. One way to keep this amazement is to always remember where I came from.


I know it sounds overly simplistic, but our expectations are key to re-discovering our awe of anything. If we want to have a better relationship with our horse, if we want to be blown away by what he does for us, if we want to amaze ourselves with our own skills but don’t go out to the arena expecting these things we often miss them even when they happen.

When progress feels far away it may be closer than we think, in fact it may be happening and you just don’t recognize it. When we are frustrated with our horse’s performance or our own horsemanship skills it could be time to change our thinking. The next time you go out to the corral expect to be awed, even if it is by your stumbling. Develop a lightness of heart and expect good things, I am sure you will get better results.


Our personalities and preferences in many ways dictate how we interact with horses. What is your default way of interacting with a horse? Are you a head person, drawn to engaging the horse mainly through head knowledge from information you have studied. Do you try to stick with a set of rules for each exercise? Are you fairly mechanical in your presentation? Do you tend a little too much towards drilling the horse?  Are you a heart person, connecting with the horse most easily through an emotional connection? Do you ignore most of the rules and head knowledge, hoping things will just work out because the horse likes you?  Are you fairly unstructured in your presentation?  Do you tend to avoid practicing very much because you want to keep the horse happy? Are you a hands person? Do you connect with the horse by doing specific activities? Like trail riding, jumping, working cattle, etc.?

Figure out which one of these you default to. Then try engaging with the horse through a different means. Why? We get in ruts with what we do with our horses. Sometimes shaking it up really helps. Here is an example: I was swinging a rope over Sunshine’s head. She wasn’t exploding or anything, but you could see she was disturbed. After watching the video, one of the on-line study course students asked, “What if you did the same thing with an invisible rope? Just act like you are swinging it.” The next video I did with Sunshine I pretended to have a rope in my hand swinging it. It was obvious it wasn’t just about the rope the issue was much deeper. We took a different rode home by making such a simple change to the exercise and it helped Sunshine make tremendous progress that day. Think outside the box, try something different.


Of course I don’t mean pick a fight with your horse. I mean just don’t give up. Keep plugging away. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Keep going, keep trying, persevere. That may seem counter-intuitive to something as spontaneous as re-discovering your awe.   The problem of needing to re-discover the wonder we have for the little things with our horses, the joy we have in seeing them do the simplest thing with us, is a common one. And it seems so the higher level of horsemanship we attain. Don’t give up wanting a more excellent performance but at the same time don’t forget the wonder and awe of it all in your pursuit of perfection.

I encourage you the next time you go out to the corral to do anything with your horse, take a moment to bask in the wonder that this horse allows you into his world in such a special way. Take joy in who he is; exactly as God created him to be!

Have you stood in awe of the creator of the universe lately?

Psalm 33:6-9
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea together as a heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

There are few things which inspire me more than:

  • watching a horses and rider moving in perfect harmony;
  • watching a herd of horses running through the field with strength and freedom;
  • the miraculous determination a new-born foal exerts in standing for the first time;
  • how curious and brave he can be especially when he is in the safety of the herd;
  • watching a horse try really hard to figure out and do what I am asking him to do.

These are just a few things about the majesty of horses which inspire me. But in Psalm 33 I read of something much greater than any of these things. The psalmist writes of the majestic one who created the horses that inspire me. He shares, “The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.”

His conclusion was, “Let the whole world fear the LORD.” What about you? When is the last time you stopped and stood in awe of God? When have you let your mind go and just bask in His greatness, His power and His infiniteness? No one can do it for you.

Remember how excited you were when the Lord first saved you? Remember how you once wondered at the power of His saving grace? If you are feeling far from God and want to feel closer to Him again, one thing that will help is to rediscover your awe of Him. He is still there! He is still the same! All we need to do is draw near to Him and find joy in who He is.

The good news is, it’s easier than you think. Just stop. Close your eyes and whisper, “How mighty You are, dear God.” Let it sink in and add, “I stand in awe of You, almighty Lord.” Then wait. Muse on Him. Pause and let the majesty of God flood your soul.

Meditate on how awesome and mighty He is and that He loves you just the way you are. He has let you in on his kingdom through his son Jesus Christ. When you are saved He comes to live in you by the Holy Spirit. Today, stand in awe of Him. There is nothing like it! Look from where you have come, expect great things now and in your future, take a new ride with him let him take you on his path home, and never give up because He will never give up on you! How awesome is that!